Michael Saunders Signs with Philadelphia Phillies

during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Philadelphia Phillies have come to an agreement with outfielder Michael Saunders, reportedly for one year and $9 million. Saunders spent his last two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before being denied a qualifying offer this off-season.

Saunders, 30, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round of the 2004 draft and made his debut in Seattle on July 25, 2009. Starting the 2009 season at Triple-A Tacoma, he was hitting .313 with 13 home runs, earning him the promotion. He exceeded rookie status during the 2010 season, appearing in 100 games. Saunders hit to a .211/.295/.367 line, hitting 10 home runs in 327 plate appearances that year.

Michael Saunders Signs with Philadelphia Phillies

The Mariners kept Michael Saunders around for six seasons before trading him to Toronto for J.A. Happ in 2015. Due to ongoing problems with his knee from tearing his MCL before the start of the season, Saunders only played nine games in 2015.

2016 was Saunders’ best season, hitting .253/.338/.478. He hit a career high 24 home runs and 32 doubles, earning him All-Star honors. He started the season on a tear before slowing down considerably after the break. In the postseason, Saunders saw play in eight games, getting hot and hitting .381 with a double, one home run and one RBI.

This is a decent signing for Philadelphia. The organization finds a cheap outfielder who finished 2016 on a good note. Saunders has shown to have some power value from the left side, but struck out 157 times in 558 plate appearances in 2016. His play in the outfield has been a liability at times with -21 defensive runs saved through his career, although most of that comes from his time in center field. Saunders has always been a decent ballplayer when he can maintain his health.

He’s seen roughly equal time between left and center field in his career with some time in right (135 starts). Saunders has shown he’s flexible in his outfield role and will likely appear in right the most in the upcoming season as he would be an upgrade over Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. A big question mark for 2017 is whether or not he can stay healthy. His durability comes under scrutiny after electing to remove the damage to his MCL in 2015 instead of choosing to fix it. If he can stay on the field, this will turn out well for both parties.

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